Alaska Governor requests federal disaster funds for earthquake recovery

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces at a press conference his administration is filing a formal request for federal disaster assistance following the November 30th earthquake and continuing aftershocks. (Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has formally requested help from the federal government for earthquake recovery efforts. The step could unlock tens of millions of dollars in disaster relief funds under the Stafford Act for the state, businesses and individuals who suffered property damage during the November 30th quake and continuing aftershocks.

“If this declaration is approved, it’ll help free up money so that we can get Alaska back on its feet faster,” Dunleavy said during a press conference Thursday morning in Anchorage focused on his administration’s formal request for a major emergency disaster declaration from the Trump Administration.

The state has submitted a 15-page document to President Trump detailing the scale of the damage from ongoing assessments. So far, state officials estimate the earthquake’s cost at around $100 million between Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Almost half of the money, some $48 million, is for repairs to public infrastructure, including bridges, schools and government buildings. Tens of millions are needed for additional roadwork. And as of Thursday around 7,700 residents have filed reports of damage to their personal property.

“I’ve been in this job for 25 years and this is the largest number of disaster applicants that I’ve seen in my career,” said Brian Fisher, coordinating officer for the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Still in response phase

Officials say the state isn’t done surveying the full extent of the damage — which won’t be completed until after break-up and through the summer. For the time being, the state is trying to guide residents living in temporary shelters to longer-term housing.

“We’re very much still in the response phase of this disaster,” Fisher said. “We have 151 individuals from 46 households that are still sheltered. Their homes are unlivable and they’ve been displaced.”

The state has recorded another 643 homes with what is categorized as “major damage,” and another roughly 2,200 with some degree lesser of impacts.

No effects from shutdown

There is no set timeline for when the White House will respond once it receives this new assistance request. After talks with the Trump Administration, Dunleavy does not expect the current government shutdown to hinder the process.

If the request is granted, federal funds will eventually reimburse the state up to 75 percent of the cost for repairs to public infrastructure. Homeowners would also become eligible for a little more than $34,900 per household in state and federal funds — although officials caution that is a maximum ceiling, not a guarantee.

Related links from around the North:

Canada: Canadian military trains to respond to Arctic earthquake, Radio Canada International

Greenland: Greenland earthquake and tsunami – hazards of melting ice?, Blog by Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

Sweden: Mining company LKAB won’t pay for earthquake damage to homes in Arctic Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Magnitude 4.9 aftershock in southcentral Alaska, Alaska Public Media

Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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